Our History 

The Aberdeen Law Project is the first student-founded law project in Scotland.

We are extremely proud to be the first British law project to be founded, led and operated by students. Established in 2009, by then student Ryan Whelan, The Aberdeen Law Project ("ALP") is now one of the largest law projects in the UK. 

Ryan Whelan discusses the roots of the Aberdeen Law Project

(Video credit: University of Aberdeen)

Ryan was acutely aware of the North East’s access to justice gap.  Convinced that law students know more law than they think, and can be of greater assistance than they might believe, he was passionately of the view that students could play a valuable role in reducing the access to justice gap. He thought it was a win-win: students could obtain practical experience and the community could gain advice and representation. The question was “how?” 

What was lacking was a vehicle through which students could put their skills to use for the good of the community. With encouragement from a small group of other students, Professor Margaret Ross, Professor Roderick Paisley and Mr Greg Gordon, a company was formed and ALP born. 

The enthusiasm for the law project was beyond all expectation. Ryan put out a call for student volunteers. He expected a handful to respond. Not so. Over 100 volunteered. Next, Ryan turned to the community. They were the people best placed to know if and how such a resource could help. The enthusiasm was equally overwhelming. It was a resounding yes from those in the justice gap. Last came the profession. The student team approached numerous lawyers in an effort to obtain training and support. The response was remarkable; more offers were received than could be taken advantage of. 

We’re not just different in terms of how we came to be; we’re different in terms of what we do and how we do it. Some of what makes us different: 

  • We operate through an independent company called Casus Omissus, which means gap in the law. We are not part of The University of Aberdeen, but we operate in partnership with it.
  • We are a law project, not a law clinic. This is both deliberate and important. Our clinical dimension is where we provide advice and representation. It is vital, but it is just one part of what we do. The other part, the larger part, involves engaging, educating and empowering the community. Our founding principles are clear: ALP should work to reduce the access to justice problem, not just “fire-fight” existing issues. 

  • We are integrated with the legal profession to an extent that is unprecedented. Lawyers from across the world train, mentor, supervise and donate to ALP.  It’s remarkable and greatly appreciated.    

In its first year of operation ALP met with numerous organisations and individuals. We even made international headlines. Since then it’s been more of the same. Every year we have gone on to do more and more. Highlights include devising and implementing a host of innovative education programmes, appearing before the Scottish Parliament and winning cases that have become reported decisions. As of January 2015, ALP students have met with approximately 1,000 potential clients and represented over 200. But this is only the beginning. We have more people to help, more boundaries to push. 

If you can help us or we can help you, please do get in touch.